Donna O'Donnell Figurski's Blog

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On School #16 Pay It Forward

Disclaimer: The names in this musing are changed to protect the “infamous.”

Pay It Forward is an interesting concept. And it’s a generous one. It’s giving with no expectation of return. It’s easy to be on the receiving end. No work there! But to be the giver – well that’s a different story.

Imagine the world a kinder place – a place where people outwardly care about each other. Sometimes in the hustle-bustle of life – running from soccer field to dance class, from grocery store to doctor’s appointments, we forget our manners and kindness. Our chores and errands seem endless. It’s no wonder our lives become so introverted – so self-focused. It’s easy to ignore others. In many parts of the country, including where I live, people pass each other on the street, within an arm’s reach and never make eye contact, never utter a greeting of hello, or offer a simple smile. It’s like we are invisible. I think it is a sad society.

It’s not like this everywhere. When I return to my hometown of Erie, Pennsylvania, I am amazed at the human interaction. Not only does the checker at the cash register greet you with a smile and a hello, often an entire conversation can take place. I once spent twenty minutes at the meat counter speaking with an elderly gentleman who offered advice about which ham I should buy for Easter dinner. After sharing many stories, I learned that he knew David’s aunt and some of David’s uncles. Small world! Another time I stopped for gas. Unlike New Jersey, gasoline stations in Erie are self-serve. I was having a difficult time with the hose and a young 20-something attendant came to help. We ended up chatting for about ten minutes. Unheard of! The idea of spending time in a grocery store or gas station, or anywhere for that matter, here in the New York Metropolis talking with a stranger is foreign to me. The checkers and gas attendants here barely acknowledge one’s presence. No “Hello!” No “How are you?” Not even a “Thank you.” or “Have a good day.”

So when I was reminded of the Pay It Forward concept, I wanted to share it with my class of six- and seven-year-olds. I remembered the movie I had seen many years ago based on the book by Catherine Ryan Hyde of the same title. A young boy did kind deeds for others and asked that they, in turn, do something for another. I thought that was a perfect project for my class. I hoped it would instill more kindness, compassion, and caring in them.

After explaining the concept to the class, I gave each child three orange Pay It Forward coupons, which I made for them. It didn’t take them long to put them into play. Kat saw a pencil on the floor near Charlie’s desk. She picked it up, placed it on his desk, and handed him a Pay It Forward coupon. Kat beamed as Charlie thanked her. When Kylie was taking too long to put away her work in time to get ready for lunch. Marta helped her and gave her a Pay It Forward coupon. Kylie made it to the line on time. These little gestures were enacted all through the classroom and big smiles were on everyone’s faces. I could see the children looking for good deeds to do.

I decided to take the process one step farther. I made green Pay It Forward coupons for the children to take home and use with their families and out-of-school friends. Charlie wrote a nice letter to his aunt in Ireland and sent her a Pay It Forward coupon explaining what she needed to do with it. Marta sent hers to a cousin in Lebanon. Andy gave one of his to the principal. He said that he was really trying to behave. I wonder where these cards will end up.

As a class, we concluded that if everyone just did one good deed every day for someone, the world would surely be a better place.

You can find out more about the Pay It Forward foundation at the link below.

(Clip Art compliments of

Pay It Forward Foundation


May 16, 2010 - Posted by | Anything Writing, On School | , ,

1 Comment »

  1. This comment is from a high school classmate of mine.


    Thank you for putting a smile in my heart as I begin my day. I want you to know that I will “Pay it Forward” all day long! I read your blog at 6 a.m. this morning. You are truly inspirational and I hope we get to meet again some day but for now…..thank you 🙂

    Patti McLaughlin Jugenheimer

    Comment by donnaodonnellfigurski | July 18, 2010 | Reply

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